David Walliams, adapted by Lou Stein
Twelve-year-old Chloe (Lucy Mae Beacock) is lonely and isolated.
At school she is bullied. At home she seems to live in the shadow of her supposedly successful sister Annabelle (Courtney Dayes) and nothing she does seems right for her strict and fussy mother (Belinda McGuirk) who even tears up her school book when she finds that Chloe has been using it to write a mere story.
Despite these distracting worries, she still feels concerned about a homeless man known as Mr. Stink (Bradley Davis) who has started living on a public bench.
She tries to give him money which he refuses, so she takes to smuggling him sausages from home.
He in turn gives her good advice and, when school bullies arrive, scares them away with a gigantic belch which had younger audience members clapping.
But as the weather gets worse, she convinces him that her family want him to live in their shed. In fact, her family know nothing about it and her mum, who at times seems to take on shades of Thatcher, is standing as an MP on a programme of ruthless policies towards the homeless and the unemployed.
That is a bit of problem for Chloe’s dad (Ashley Driver) who Chloe finds has taken to hiding from her mum during the day to avoid her knowing the car plant made him redundant.
“What next?” she asks herself as she helps hide her dad as well as Mr. Stink, “Grandad in the tumble drier?”
Central to this fluent, lively production is the fine performance of Lucy Mae Beacock as Chloe and Bradley Davis as the kindly eccentric Mr. Stink.
Even as you take your seat, the spectacular set by Keith Dunne raises expectations with its comic book colours and misshapen house where the line of floor, roof, window and walls emerge at strange expressionist angles.
It is a fitting context to a story whose gentle comic book humour sensitively deals with troubling social issues of bullying, dysfunctional families, corrupt politicians and homelessness.
Wonderfully hopeful, it demonstrates how people in the most awkward situation can help each other and change for the better the world they live in.
Chloe and her family are transformed by their contact with Mr. Stink, and he in turn feels able to describe the terrible circumstances that left him homeless.
Not everything about this story is resolved in the show. Some things are left for us to ponder long after the performance is over. But we can be sure if Chloe had her way they would be solved with sympathy, understanding and generosity.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna